On a slow boat

The phrase “On a slow boat to China” certainly applies to the finishing process.

I boarded that boat last week on my bookcase project. As you probably know, I am using poplar, and as you also probably know poplar has a lot of different colors – white, brown and often green on the same board.

I have been applying a blotch control product developed by woodworker Charles Neil. What it does is somewhat seal the wood so that it takes stains and dyes evenly across the whole surface. It works much better than trying a wash coat of shellac or the myriad other methods I have tried. Although it does not seal end grain completely (so that it will not absorb extra stain making that darker than the rest of the piece) so for that I add a coat of shellac and that takes care of the problem.

You apply a wet coat, wipe off the excess and wait an hour or so for it to dry. It raises the grain so afterwards you have to sand it with 320 grit sandpaper to remove the “whiskers”. Once you have done all of the surfaces you apply another wet coat and repeat.

I have done almost all of my pieces (there are a total of 11 and I have done 10) and they are ready for me to apply stain. The only thing I have not done is the small base and I can do that at any time.

My next step is to apply my stain (I am using General Finishes “Java” gel stain).

I have prepared a sample piece doing all the same steps as my “real” pieces and have found that to get the color I want/need (I am having to match my daughter’s furniture) I will have to apply two coats (yeah!).

I also found doing the sample piece I can only do one side at a time, since if you touch the wet stain some of it gets removed or smeared. And according to the instructions drying time is 6-8 hours (another yeah!).

Well since I cannot touch the wet stain I am not sure how many of the pieces I can stain at one time.

Doing the sample showed me I cannot keep the stain off of my gloves, so to do more than one piece I will have to remove my gloves, move my piece, put on a new pair of gloves, stain another piece and repeat the same process for the next piece.

That is quite a few pairs of gloves to go through, but have not come up with another way.

THEN after 44 times (11 pieces 4 times for two coats) I have to wait 48 hours before I can begin applying my top coat.

The reason for that wait time is I am going to use General Finishes water based High Performance Satin Polyurethane over an oil based stain. I have used that top coat before and love it. It is easy to apply, dries fairly quickly and smoothly – it looks great.

I usually use a brush but may try something else (paint pad?) since three of my pieces are 15-1/2″ wide by almost 6 feet long  and not sure I can use a brush and not have it start drying before I can complete applying it to a whole piece/side. I am not sure about the paint pad as I do not know if it would go one without lap marks.  All of the pieces are that wide but none of the others are that long.

I should try that on my sample.

So once again I would be doing the same with the top coat process; one coat per side, so another 44 pair of gloves. And since I usually put on three coats, that is another 88 pair of gloves. I think I will need a new box of gloves (thankfully there are 100 pairs in a box).

So rather than probably being done in the next few weeks it is looking like it will be perhaps a month (boo).

Too bad this boat is so slow.


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